Reflecting on Refractions or How I Meet Myself At The Door

I’ve been cogitating, incubating, hatching, scrambling, meditating, and kicking my muse in the arse over his lack of inspiration. As all good researchers do these days I turned to Google for inspiration material.  All sources pointed to three necessary ways to create fractures. Water for submerging, or containers or vessels of water, colored paper, and flashlights. Macro photography of wee droplets of glycerine holding an exact copy of the image it sits near, actual or Photoshopped. One clever fellow used a terrific setup consisting of complex placement of objects, colored photo gels, and removing the lens from his camera. He obviously doesn’t live with a dog and three cats.

I was getting tired of ways to reflect refractions and still coming up short. I wanted to try the droplets, but alas, no flowers and no glycerine. I also felt, damn, it was nice the first time I saw it, but frankly, it doesn’t spin my squirrel cage anymore. I still wondered if I could capture detail in a REAL droplet.

Day three dawned with a hard freeze and heavy fog. Perfect weather for refractions. I waited two hours for the sun to pop through, hit the frost edges in my prairie, and pop those sparks into mind-blowing highlights. I drank a cup of coffee and linked to the computer channel, waiting for Operation Migration, and the Whooping Crane chicks to finally leave Marquette County. Their Ultralight went up and came down, cancelled, too choppy, big sigh. I may love this county, but I can’t imagine their crew hanging here for two weeks.

I drank another cup of coffee, lollygagged through Facebook, looked out the window and the frost had melted without the sun coming through! Well burn my butt, that idea trickled down the hill with the rest of the morning dew. I risked madness anyway, heck, I’m already a full bubble off – grabbed my camera and went out to try to find some drops still clinging to the leaves. I say, I got soggy jammy pants laying on my stomach trying to capture light through frost still clinging to my ground-cover evergreens. Some nice photos of leaves in the wet grass and dew drops, more bokeh than refraction.

Day four, did I tell you there was a challenge in this challenge? Today it rained! It poured! Had the light and opportunity presented itself I might of had a chance to get some photos shot through a rain-slopped windshield. I had my pocket camera set up to shoot video of my horse today. She decide to inspect the camera. Got great footage of the camera rolling off the pallet and bouncing across the sand before landing lens down. Of course, it was the type with the shutter on the outside. Always hated that shutter.

Lucky me, I still have my DSLR. I was getting soaked when I got home, but I wrapped my real camera in a plastic bag and went out back looking for the puny fairy droplets that cling to trees. I finally found a few with real refractions. I’m sure to shame myself among the gifted photographers that actually do macro photography. One day, I will catch a BIG refraction, after reflecting long and hard on how it’s accomplished. Late October in Wisconsin is not a very good time for refractions. I figure I’ve done enough reflecting on this subject for now. I’m off to ponder another subject, a good days rest. Thanks for stopping by.

Weekly Photo Challenge/Refractions

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OMG – I’m officially a senior citizen or Live long enough this happens

My mentor!

It took less than thirty seconds to realize I was now a senior citizen. Not that I didn’t already know that my birthday had put me into that category. Renewing my driver’s license this August and looking at my new seven-year mug shot firmly drove that home.

Each visit to my doctor’s office requires the explanation that I’m not paying my bill with Medicare part D. My husband’s younger than me by several years, still working, and I’m covered by his employer’s medical insurance plan. The law states they can’t throw me out of their coverage because of age. One added benefit of having married a younger man. I’m more Miss Kitty at 100 than cougar.

Last summer I reunited with a Ohio cousin I hadn’t seen since I was eleven. We met at the house of a third cousin who hadn’t seen the Ohio one since she five or so. Our paternal grandmothers’ were very close sisters, but the families drifted apart sometime after my grandfather died in 1956. That would have been shortly after the three families had last visited.

While looking through the old photo’s we had each brought, stories exchanges, genetic similarities, and attempts to trace our ancestors, my long lost Ohio cousin looked at me and said I resembled my mother. That was the aching proof that my youth was gone forever. For the majority of my life, I’d resembled my father. Until he’d reached his late sixties, my father was tall, lean and physically fit with a youthful face younger than his years. When he did age, it seemed to happen overnight.

My mother already appeared to be old by the age of thirty. I only remember her laughing once during her lifetime and there are no photos of her smiling. Until now, the only part of me I inherited from her was her over-sized, Belgian-French nose, which is a direct genetic link to my material grandfather. I’ve since been told by distant cousins that the ‘nose’ did appear in other branches of the family, but in mine it only landed, like a piece of Mount Rushmore, in the middle of my face.

I grew up with dad’s sorta roundish baby face, plump lips (before they were stylish), and a body built along the lines of a couple of six foot long 2″x 4″s nailed together. I was also thin before that was fashionable. I guess I was years ahead of the curve, or the ‘curve’ was years ahead of fashionable me!

When I was in my thirties I was turned away from bars with an legitimate drivers license. In my mid-forties people were still asking what college was I going to. Applying for jobs (back in day when it was still required to put your age on your application), I would be turned down for lying about my age. I’ve had a couple of friends, one who was a few years younger than me, that were asked numerous time if they were my mother (ouch).

There’s something about aging that seems to hit innocently from the young. Mine was the first time the bag boy at the grocer called me mam.  Possibly he was simply raised to have good manners, but I hadn’t been told in a couple of years, “no, you don’t look that old!”. Time was creeping up.

A few years ago I attended a photographers weekend getaway. It was the second year in a row I’d gone. The previous year I’d had a terrific time, lot’s of laughter, new friends to make, great photography. The second event seemed to drag on forever. Their was a lot less laughter, the weather sucked, people were not inclined to friendships, and the photographs were terrible.

One of the weekend organizers took candid shots of the breakaway groups during sessions and I saw myself in a couple of them. I was so shocked at how much I’d aged, how much time I’d spent trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear that I gave it all up. It would be the last time in my life I’d waste time trying to ‘look my best’. Since looking at those two photos I’ve only bothered to wear makeup once or twice a year. Now my hair is almost always in a ponytail. I’ve given up trying to battle gravity, genetics, and things that need fixing but aren’t in the budget.

Yesterday, a Tuesday, I drove north forty-five minutes to another town to shop for groceries.  Our normal shopping town had a very nice, high quality, meat, fish market and deli. Unfortunately it closed a few weeks ago. The next town north supplied some of his products so it became the logical place to replace some of the lost products. One of the disadvantages of rural living, nothing is convenient.

Wearing very old, worn hiking boots, over-sized wool socks with the tops slouched down, black leggings and a hooked parka left over from the days I was 45 pounds heavier, I grabbed a shopping cart and entered the store. I’m currently in my Buddy Holly stage of life. Trying to find glasses that look good on my lopsided face is a zero return so I’ve opted for plain black frames that darken in bright light. Of course, they never lighten either, so I figure wrinkles and bags under my eyes are pretty well hidden most of time. I recently cut my own bangs, and I’ve cut them crooked. Trying to correct the problem made it worse. Oh well, at my age, what does it matter. I had to untangle my pony tale from the snap on the back collar of my coat so most likely it looked like half a dozen dogs have just come from greeting one another in the park.

My husband wants me to wear a sign pinned to my back while shopping that reads, ‘medicated for your When I get oldown protection’. I tend to get frustrated with the people that park in the middle of narrow isles and ignore oncoming traffic. At least early on a Tuesday afternoon, there weren’t any children playing gotta have, gimme this, where did momma go, or the family of seven all shopping using one cart with separate check-outs in line. It actually was pretty simple. I actually laughed at the bellowing cow mooing over the store speakers in the product section as I entered. Why the cow moos in produce and not meats I’ll never understand. Is it related to manure, makes fertilizers, which grows healthy produce? Doubt it.

Shopping done and ready to check out I’m actually directed by a young man to a empty isle. I think this is a first for me. There’s even get a second person bagging my purchases. This is service. The cow is still mooing in produce. I’m telling the young man how pleased I’m am with my shopping experience and the wide variety of products they had available, that it will help with my love of Hungarian cooking. He explained his school trip to Austria last year. The first day they served his class Austrian food and he loved it. He was looking forward to experiencing more European cuisine. The second day he sat down to dinner and they were served chicken nuggets and french fries. The remainder of the class trip all they got to eat was American cafeteria  meals. He was so disappointed. Probably the only trip he’ll make in his life and he’ll only have one memorable meal.

As my grocery bill  totaled I noticed a credit popped up on the bottom of the screen. He tore off the receipt and handed it me. “Have a nice day,” I said to him and walked to my car. After placing the bags in the trunk I opened my wallet to look at the receipt and figure out what the credit was for. My regular grocery store states, “Amount saved today” – this read, “Senior Discount 5%”. OMG – I’d been caught in public, not even asked, blatantly exposed,  the best days are behind me, I qualify without asking … I’m over the hill!

Wikipedia defines Senior citizen as: It is used in general usage instead of traditional terms such as old personold-age pensioner, or elderly as a courtesy and to signify continuing relevance of and respect for this population group as “citizens” of society, of senior rank.

Shut up or communicate, please

My father taught me focused driving on the streets of Chicago with a single statement that still sticks fifty years later. “Always drive as if the OTHER GUY IS DRUNK!” That was decades before I’d heard the term defensive driving course. I’ve amended that statement since the ubiquitous use of cellphones and texting while driving.  “Always drive as if the other person is DRUNK, DEAF, AND BLIND! No talking was allowed while we were in traffic.  Totally pay attention, shut up and drive.

Fifty years later, robo-phone zombies attempt to cross streets, push shopping carts, park cars, eat in restaurants, travel, and download and play games designed for jogging or walking and cheat death by driving. I think cell phones actually make more sense as  wristwatches.  Two things could be done at once while talking.  Think of a hurried upper management office filler, stuffing their face with a hot Cinnabon and talking simultaneously with a full mouth. You could plan that week long visit with your mother-in-law while running short on time and drying your hair on the high setting.

Certain people tend to talk with their hands.  If the phone could also transmit video the person receiving the call could choose to cut it short, or remember to take daily Dramamine. I think it would be convenient for dog owners. The loved one on the other end could share in the joy of Spuds repeated barking while waiting for the shush of the successful Frisbee fling in a November gale.

Go ahead, scratch your face, itch your scalp, pick your nose, boil water, wave to the neighbors and keep on talking. Billions upon billions of words – invisible symbols of language hanging in cyberspace waiting for an electronic signal to coalesce into communication, or numbing mindless chatter.

No video yet but getting closer.

Why am I so off center from a nature blog and into a rant? We’re in the middle of having our house re-roofed. I mean a total rebuild of our four-seasons room and a portion of the house roof. The damaged structure has already been removed and is open to the sky. Going on four weeks, four voice-mails, and nine emails over schedule. Finally, one subcontractor showed up a week ago. I could tell something was wrong. The two guys that were working the roof were jumpy, they didn’t want the whip around. This week we got some rain and 4-1/2 hours work our of the two regular guys, plus a visit from the whip who talked to our insurance adjuster, and then disappeared again.

During the entire process I’ve been stressing communication, communication, communication. Just call me and let me know what is going on, are the contractors coming out, not coming out, what’s the hold up, where are we going?

These are not the only people I’ve scheduled with this week that were supposed to follow up and failed. All this advanced technology, instant communication, wasted time,  while society remains firmly attached to cell phones, but accomplishes nothing. Is the cell phone the new excuse for malingering, hiding, or wasting employers time and money?

What about a lack of social skills? People are actually walking around pretending to talk into silent phones simply because they don’t want to appear out of place or unwanted. Come on, how many people does it really take to manage our modern lives on a daily basis. How many humans are being micro-managed to death via constant contact through smart phones.

Personally, I preferred the old way.  I  called a company and a live person answered the call. Someone cared about the company image, product, or my concern. If this really is progress. I really want a watch phone able to record and transmit video.  I want someone to finally answer their smart phone with video capability when I call. I want them to see which part of my anatomy is giving a shit because they can’t shut up or communicate, PLEASE!

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Anxiety, life’s surprises, and remembering to exhale

I suffer from Intention Deficit Disorder. The best of plans fall short, come off half-baked, or if successful, the credit always goes to someone else.  After the bottom fell out of the fortieth rebuild on my life a few years ago, I’ve been figuratively sitting in the last row of the theater watching life pass by. Sighing a lot, I’ve noticed a nasal whistle-like sound as I exhale. I was born into a stress filled life and have never been able to shake it.

I wake to a belly tightened by adrenaline and force myself to inhale. Anxiety causes difficulty breathing. Most times I’m not aware I’m holding my breath as if I were trying to slow the forward forces of life while I figure out my next do-over. My last ‘life’ ship took ten years to build and sank with several irreplaceable portions within four short months.

After a five-year dry land existence. I’m building a new ship. Most likely. this one will always be a leaky work in progress. Perhaps I’m just feeling time running short.  I’ve lost competitive and marketable skills.  Creatively and financially when something goes kaput it’s a long time before a replacement comes along. The strength to move obstacles just doesn’t exist.

As change creeps in, time heals, even if the scars remain. I’m gradually learning it’s necessary to inhale and exhale even during times of tension. A boat will break its bonds if kept tight at all times.  Line allowed to give against the pressure of the water will keep the boat in place.

I stood in the rain on a rural highway bridge over the Fox River in Marquette County, Wisconsin. My husband waited patiently in the car while the property owner looked on (I told him I envied his bit of heaven).  I took a few pics with my pocket camera. When I processed the wetlands photos this one left me breathless.  Please leave a few words and let me know, did you inhale or exhale?

SAM_2305OOblog

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/daily-prompt-safety/

ZE PLANE, ZE CRATES, ZE CRANES

In 1978 an old television show called Fantasy Island, a character named Tatoo, came running on camera, peeping in his small French accented voice, “Ze plane, ze plane!”  At that time, an estimated one hundred or so wild Whooping Cranes were still very much on the edge of extinction in North American. Certainly, none of them ever arrived via airplane. They summered in northern Canada where they bred, fledged their young and migrated 2,600 miles to wintering grounds on the coast of Texas.

That meager flock of Whooping Cranes were the sole descendants of the last 15 wild Whooping Cranes still alive in 1940. Extinction was possible, where they would only be available as museum mounts, paintings, photographs, and romantic stories of how the largest remaining bird on this continent disappeared from the horizon on our watch. These amazing great white cranes slowly increased in number, and now labelled the Western Migratory Population they are the lone genetic lineage for all Whooping Cranes. Whooper’s bond for life and generally produce only one chick that lives. Reproduction rates are low and after more than 70 years the western population still numbers less than 300 birds.

Hoping to maintain a species comes with knowledge that a single event, an oil spill, hurricane, or a drought causing a lack of fresh water on the Texas wintering grounds could create a life-threatening disaster for this flock. They face new problems from oil-sands, pipelines, and potential wind energy fields on the migration route.  And we cry for the yearly birds killed by hunters, those by accident, or worse, by intent and cruelty.

A little over a decade ago, a second backup group of Whooping Cranes was considered for introduction.  However, there were no native birds in the eastern United States.  This flock was going to be developed from captive birds. They would have no migratory patterns learned from previous generations passed down for millions of years by parents to their fledglings. Humans would need to intervene, but humans raising wild birds doesn’t work. Birds imprint on the first thing they set their eyes on. If it’s a human the bird will grow up and never learn how to be a bird. An entirely new science was going to be put to use, joining several different research groups with one goal.

Whooping Cranes of the Eastern Migratory Population are genetic offspring of the western flock, however, these eggs came from monitored Whooping Cranes via careful selection to maintain diversity.  All of the eggs were hatched under careful monitoring and supervision,  and when grown the birds were then reintroduced into the wild to form a second flock migrating between Wisconsin and Florida.  Different methods of raising chicks at several locations in Wisconsin are being used. Only one is monitored for the public to view via computer thanks to Operation Migration.org.

In a few days, similar words to Tatoo’s greeting will be on the lips and tips of many chat room fingers. They are a dedicated group of Whooping Crane fans,  old and new friends, known affectionately as Craniacs. Daily, for approximately six months they sit in front of their computer monitors, laptops and smartphones to watch the morning and evening antics, routines, growth spurs, and comedic errors of a yearly clutch of endangered Whooping Crane chicks in central Wisconsin. These birds, under the skillful hands of an organization named Operation Migration.org will raise these birds this summer, flight train them, and this autumn lead them behind a UltraLite aircraft skillfully imprinted as a parent bird teaching them the migratory route between Wisconsin and Florida. Next spring, a miracle happens when the birds return to Wisconsin using their own remarkable instincts.

The chicks hatched at  Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Maryland where they undergo physical testing that would undermine a candidate for the Navy Seals. Their personalities are testing to eliminate the negative and accentuate the positive. Some tolerance is allowed for chicks to establish a pecking order, as long as they don’t actually continue to nit-peck like a wife that discovered mouse breath on her husband who said he was working late at the office. After a class is chosen they’re allowed to attend a mixer and see who wants to dance and who’s going to become the wallflower. Of course, someone always trips over their own feet, another peeps and runs, one takes a firm hock sit and won’t be moved, and the sudden bully chases all the other kids around the block. Only the block is round and heavily supervised by people who look like Casper, the friendly ghost with a misplaced appendage – a single wooden crane-like head where a hand would be..

Crane chicks are never allowed to visually come into contact with humans during the nearly year-long training process. With clever manipulations and puppetry the birds own genetic code will imprint onto puppetry and even lite aircraft substituting as parents. It allows the Whooping Cranes to remain wild. Rules number one through one hundred! All humans attending to Whooping Crane chicks for any purpose present in costumes aka ‘tumes’. Imagine a construction helmet and black muck boots, covered in a hybrid of your grandmother’s white sheets drying in the summer sun and a half-blinded person wearing a backward burka in 100 degree heat while all the juicy bugs of summer jump up your petticoat.

Gotta love the dedicated Whooping Crane people. The same crew training in Maryland with the eight chosen finalists will soon be moved to Wisconsin to begin phase two of the training program. But first the chicks are gently backed into standing crates and loaded onto a private airplane where they will receive first class attention on their flight over. Sorry, no reclining seats, headphones, movies, or mixed drinks allowed for the birds and crew. The Craniac’s are free to celebrate the impending arrival of the new kids on the block in any manner they choose. Virtual parties are probably already being planned. Tissues are being stockpiles by laptops, vacation days planned, people will be calling in late, this will be a cheers and tears celebration.

ETA, July 9, 2013, 1 pm CST at

Operation Migration Whooping Crane Cam
http://www.ustream.tv/migratingcranes

HOW MANY POUNDS OF ROCKS WILL PETE PICK?

Reed Canary Grass

Reed Canary Grass

Since frost out I’d been watching an elderly man in a vacant farm field picking rocks. Every day I’d gone past he’s been out there, dressed from cap to britches, in tones of faded UPS brown, baggy trousers tucked into practical rubber muck farm boots.  I have asparagus gone to fern and seed in my garden that’s brawnier than this petite man with his thin arms and barely wired biceps.

Last Tuesday I finally found myself driving behind him just as he was pulling to the side of the road to begin his day of rolling and rocking. I stopped behind him as a short thin arm extended out the rolled down window of his car and started frantically waving me ahead over and over again, the gesture reminding me of a sun worn whirligig before a big storm blows in.

When I opened my car door and started to walk toward him, he stepped out of his vehicle with a puzzled look on his face. “I’ve been wanting to talk to you for weeks” I blathered. He backed off a few inches and looked up at the skyscraper frame of me, lifted off the worn brown cap on his head and scratched his seriously balding scalp. He chuckled and realized he’d just reeled in a captive audience for a country tale or two. I’d soon learn what makes Pete putter picking rocks and plunking them to haul back to the wee trailer hitched to his compact car.

I implored,  I was so curious, “Why are you in that field picking rocks every time I drive by?”

“Well, I wanted to plant corn in there this year and that damn ground just kept throwing up rocks!”

“Corn? What did you plant last year? I don’t remember seeing anything here.”

“Nope, wasn’t anything? I own 40 acres.”  Pete glanced down at his boots and lifted a foot a couple of inches then put it down again.  “ Well, to tell you the truth – it’s really only 39-1/2 but I like the sound of 40. Makes me feel richer than I am,” while carving his elfin aged face from ear to ear. I guess lifting his foot was his way of deciding if he was going to tell me the truth or not. “ Anyway, I owned these acres for over thirty years and never planted anything on them. Just felt like doing it this year. See that hunting stand back there, past the trees? Ben Bogbottom owns five hundred acres back there, nuthin’ but swamp. He never planted anything either.”

I look back of the small trailer he’s hauling and see it’s already got a small load of dirt and some grass clods. He catches what I’m looking at and flicks an explanation faster than a bullfrog on a fly.

“I already moved 145 wheelbarrows full of rocks outta that field this spring. Now I’m moving some-a-that Reed Canary Grass down to my last field, see the other two down there where the highway went and put in those new culverts onto my land last year but didn’t do a good job. Well that’s where I moved all those rocks and I’m dumping the grass to fill in where they missed when they put in the culverts where there wasn’t any before, you get what I mean?” I turned and looked at the two culverts each of which lead to a field bursting with Reed Canary Grass.

By then I could hear rocks rattling in my own head as I nodded yes to his query. When the county rebuilt a stretch of the highway last year they had closed the road to traffic and since no one lived on a five-mile stretch they rerouted all traffic. They had gone into the field across the road from Pete’s and removed marsh peat to raise the roadbed. That field, of course, had also not been farmed in decades. Pete told me, off the record, the field’s owner shall remain secret – well he tried last year to grow corn and he failed. He tried again this year and failed again. Pete crowed triumphantly, “Only thing that field can grow, is DIRT!”

Pete’s field was successfully growing a nice stand of corn and since he was so petite he would be able to walk among the rows and continue to hand pick rocks and put them into a ten-gallon pail he’d brought along to replace the wheelbarrow.

“How do you find the time to get out here and do all of this by hand?” I asked.

His shoulders humped up and down a couple of times while he thought about it. “I’m eighty-five years old. All I have is time. After I retired from the cookie factory, I drove school bus and helped my brother run his farm stand. Then my buddy, well he wanted to move down south and he had this garbage pickup route he wanted to sell me and I told him no thanks. I mean, why? The big company already picks up all the garbage around here, right. So anyway, see, he keeps asking me and I finally buy it from him and give it to my wife to go out and pick up garbage here and there. She’s been out picking up bits and pieces of garbage the other company won’t for over twenty years now.”

Pete’s still smiling, and he’s got all his teeth so I figure his wife can’t be too angry with him for dumping a garbage route on her. We’re still leaning on his car parked alongside the highway. Every once in awhile, I hear a high pitched whine from my car reminding me I left the engine running with the air conditioner going full blast and the window open so I won’t lock myself out.

Pete then wants to know who I am and what I’m doing driving down the road nearly no one lives on, so I give him a short course in Green Lake county Whooping Crane history and my horse down the road a bit. Pete gives me a bio on his five children, four of whom fairly successfully grew up to do what they planned as children.  The last daughter Pete described as “PFFT”.

Unless I was ready to surrender the next few hours I knew it was time to leave Pete. I promised I’d honk and wave next time I saw him and stop when I had time. He was made of finer stuff than me, less inclined to complain when things got rough, probably always measured his glass as half full, and would be thankful for whatever job he was given to do.

After I left, I found myself plagued by thoughts of Reed Canary Grass, that sterilizer of Mother Nature. Vast swatches of colors from pale yellow to deep violet in mid-June blocking all chances for native species to survive. With just one glance into Pete’s trailer I’d come face to face with an enemy I couldn’t fully comprehend surrounded me. In the past week all my favorite wetland roads and landscapes have become variations on a theme. Reed Canary Grass, in different stages of development. Nature can be choked in beauty.

 

 

WHAT IF …

Wild Lupines at Summerton Blog

Wild Lupines at Summerton Blog

 

I wanted to step back in time a hundred years and visit a couple of wetlands before two families of farmers parted the tall sawgrass like a Saturday haircut and walked behind a couple of oxen bought on the cheap from departing sodbusters, and butchered as stringy beef steak after the first plowing.

Summerton Bog

A 1919 Plat Map of Marquette County, Wisconsin shows land allotted to a variety of Summerton kin, Frank, William, Milford and J.L. At least the bog kept the surname of, if not, the original land owning family, most likely the one that contributed the most to the Nature Conservancy. It’s not a difficult location to find, but like many smaller Nature Conservancy sites parking is minimal and not well maintained. Parking was one narrow mowed down slope site with no turnaround.

Summerton Bog

I’d walked the bog before, in winter, when I could clearly see the artesian springs bubbling to the surface where dead sedges and saw grasses draped over on themselves like laundry fallen off the clotheslines. In late spring the tallest grasses were tickled by rivulets, most lush and nutrient fed by the constant flow of water. I was homo-stompus trying not to blunder through sedges dressing me to mid-thigh like an inverse kilt. Carefully placing alternating ugly size eleven black rubber boots, (this was no place for America’s Top Model), only thick corrugated soles lapped the tannic bronze water seeping through last year’s decaying mounds.

Summerton Bog

In mid-step I flashed back to a misadventure into another bog where my heel wouldn’t sink a couple of inches every few feet and bounce along for another step. Unreasonable fears of encountering a human-eating bog-thrasher flipped my anxiety into overdrive and I hurried back to Summerton’s entrance. My original plan was to photograph the bog’s wildflowers, not to set a new record for trail gaiting through a wetland. As I sped past, colors’ kissed their neighbors with bravado and laughed in the breeze. My eyes were weaving patterns from shades of grasses and textures from highlights and shadows. Amazing tidbits of prairie and bog flowers, ‘Made in the USA’, rich colors and sweet memories were simply Splenda in the grass. And even some of the grasses are invasive!

The original flora I was seeking no longer existed in this place, at this time in late spring. Perhaps only one flower, the Wild Lupine, photographed on this trip was a native plant. The rest were European-American wildflowers, originally planted by settlers in their gardens and now common and sometimes invasive escapees on bogs and prairies. From my conjured step back in time I was able to bring forward several of the native grasses and sedges, woodlands, and the artesian springs. Perhaps at other times during the year a greater range of native perennials will put in an appearance.

Closer to my heart, what if the bog out back of our home was still the small lake local Natives gathered wild rice in fall? Now it’s a silted over sedge bog, with two narrow trickles of water running through it, well on the way to joining encroaching woodlands. Not even a hint of wild rice remains.

An unknown farmer lived on this land before us. Late one day in the 1930’s, having finishing his upper field he started driving his tractor toward his lower work across the bog. That tractor had been fairly new, still a nice hunting shade of bright orange. He steered the ironed wheeled behemoth down the backside of the wee slippery slope one moist day when the monster gulped and the tractor entered the bog never to plow again. The deep, acidic, muck won every attempt to wrestle that tractor free. The tractor would celebrate more than seventy years of mockery in the war over man versus wetlands.

Long into the future, an old codger with a long memory and a hankering to rebuild a piece of his youth showed up with a couple of husky young friends and two strong, late model John Deere tractors. They started early one morning with a backhoe, three men on shovels, and two tractors hitched together. Just about dusk they finally uncorked the old tractor loaded in onto a trailer and hauled it off. It was in amazing shape for having been digested by Moby Bog for over seventy years. Bogs must have a very slow metabolism.

The following spring I went looking for a few worthy photos and noticed a beautiful group of Marsh Marigolds growing in a shallow pool of water where the old tractor had been. Carefully stepping through the still black water that reflected the marigolds and with one wrong step I was stuck above the knee in the bog with my left foot pointed southeast and the corresponding hip rotated north seeking terra firma. Like quicksand, when I tried to pull my foot out it went in deeper. Somehow I managed to save the other foot and the camera.

Eventually my husband noticed I didn’t return to the house and found me out back. After laughing himself silly, he tossed me a stick and I was encouraged to lean my weight on it and pull myself up and out. However, it was, literally, a stick. Being heftier than the catbird chirping in the Red-twig Dogwoods at my back, I crumpled back into the oily morass. My shit-kicker boot was rapidly filling with a thick peaty ooze as my foot slid ever farther toward the next town beyond us or in my mind, rapidly took aim at my chin and my unwelcome meal of mud pie and inevitable extinction.

Hubby, the woodworker, finally sorted through his collection of fine lumber, found a satisfactory slab to bear my weight and gave an accurate heave-ho across the sides of the pit from hell. At last I parked my oh-so-weary ass and cocked my free leg sideways above the clutches of the muck and sobbed. The sinister bog was still chewing away at my foot, trying to pull me into its ancient mire of extinct mammoths, bison herds, lost deer, and the old iron-tired tractor that had been stuck since the early 1930’s.

Devising several inspired contortions not shown in the Kama Sutra I finally managed to remove my leg with the foot intact. I swear the damn bog belched as it swallowed my rubber barn boot and soggy sock. In early September, when the morning mist comes on early, just before the sun rises, I still imagine the old tractor’s lonely farmer cussing up a blue mist over the bog and through the trees that have overgrown his fields. All these years I assumed the bog only got his tractor.

Swamp Thang

Swamp Thang